Friday, June 01, 2007

Gun Ownership and Mental Health in NH

This one I find quite odd. Though why I should be surprised that the legal system is any stranger here than elsewhere is a good question.
CONCORD – A person found mentally incompetent to stand trial doesn’t necessarily lose the right to own guns, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

The court overturned a finding by Concord District Court Judge Michael Sullivan in the case of Scott Buchanan, who was charged with theft, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest following a 2004 outburst at the state Division of Motor Vehicles.

Police sought an order to destroy two guns seized from Buchanan after he was found mentally incompetent to stand trial on the charges.

In its ruling Wednesday, the Supreme Court directed Concord District Court to hold another hearing to reconsider whether Buchanan meets the “mentally defective” criteria outlined in federal law.
The charges were dismissed after Buchanan was found incompetent to stand trial, following an examination by Dr. James Adams, the state Department of Corrections chief forensic examiner.

Adams concluded that Buchanan was incompetent to stand trial because of his excessive and unusual paranoia about police and government, according to court records.

Buchanan subsequently asked for his guns back, and police asked permission to destroy them. Sullivan ruled that because Buchanan was incompetent to stand trial, he also was ineligible to own firearms under federal law.

The 1968 federal Gun Control Act prohibits gun ownerships by persons who are judged “mentally defective” by any “court, board commission or other lawful authority.”

The law defines “mentally defective” as a person who either poses “danger to himself or to others” or someone who “lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs” as a result of “subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease.”

Competence to stand trial involves different standards, the high court ruled. In such cases, courts consider a defendant’s ability to understand the proceedings, consult with lawyers and make decisions about the case.

“Because it appears that the trial court ruled as a matter of law that ‘adjudicated as a mental defective’ means the same thing as incompetent to stand trial, we hold that it erred,” Justice Linda Dalianis wrote, in a ruling backed by Justices James Duggan, Richard Galway and Gary Hicks.

Competency to stand trial “is not directly related to dangerousness or the ability to contract or manage one’s own affairs – requirements of the federal definition of ‘adjudicated as a mental defective,’” Dalianis added.
I don't really see that there is any difference. Especially to the point that if a person who isn't competent to stand trial is not likely to be competent to own a firearm. If the guy isn't mentally competent, doesn't that mean he's mentally defective? I suppose I'm missing part of the logic, not being a lawyer or a mental health practitioner.

This one I just find a bit baffling.

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